The Milgram Experiment: Part Deux
M. Russell Thomas, PhD
Dear American People,
As promised, I’m back to give the results of the Milgram study. But before I do, did you do your homework? Did you write down your predictions? How many were willing to go to the highest level of shock? How many were willing to go to the extremely painful level? How many quit or were unwilling to continue?
Ok, here we go. The results are tallied. A whopping 65% of the Teachers were willing to deliver what was presented as a potentially fatal 450-volt shock to the Learner! That’s two-thirds of the participants were willing to by-pass any humane, internal moral gyroscope in order to comply with the authority’s command. And those willing to push the button on the extremely painful shock administration? All of them! That’s right, 100% of the Teachers were willing to ignore the moans, groans and pleadings of the Learner to stop the shocks in order to push the button to administer 300-volts! And how many quit the experiment? The answer: none! But here is what might be the good news in the experiment. There were 14 who refused to administer the highest level of shock. Roughly a third noble, principled men with a heart to do what they knew deep down inside was the right thing to do.
Now, what does the Milgram Study tell us? Well, first of all, let me say that I am aware that there are many criticisms that range all the way from ethics (undue human suffering during the experiment as Teachers began to sweat, fidget, verbally question the Examiner, laugh uncontrollably and one even had a seizure) to theatrics (some claim that the Teachers were aware that they were not really inflicting a shock). Again, this letter is not intended to be a peer-review article but focuses on what actually happened. There were a total of 17 more studies that in various ways, were better scientifically constructed and controlled for problematic factors in the original study. I have no problem with that. In fact, that is the scientific method at its best. But when all the criticisms are counted, in the end, The Milgram Experiment does tell us something about authority and obedience.
So what exactly does the Milgram Experiment tell us? The best take away is that under certain conditions people are willing to suspend or ignore their basic human morals, convictions and beliefs that guide their usual behavior in order to comply with authority. The psychological mechanisms of why they would be willing to do so are debatable. Some would say that those who are Compliant abdicate personal responsibility to the authority, i.e., it wasn’t me, I was just doing what they told me to do. Others would argue that the individual’s personal convictions were absorbed into those of the masses, i.e., its absolutely essential that you continue for science sake, or otherwise put, the greater good of the world! While yet others argue that the individual’s will, in any given situation, is stolen, i.e., you have no choice, you must go on!
Let’s return to why I’m writing this letter to you, The American People. We’re in the middle of the most chaotic, uncertain time in modern history, if not the entire history of America. We have been ordered to stay at home, not gather in groups of more than 10, to wear masks in public and just yesterday (after writing Part I) at least one state health commissioner in the US has gone on record as saying that he will mandate that everyone in his state will be mandated to take the COVID vaccine when it is developed. And that doesn’t take into consideration that churches in California are subject to $1000 fines if they are caught singing when they gather! Seriously?! Where’s your empirical data on that one?! It seems the Examiner is telling the Teacher what to do!
· Never mind that hard working people are going bankrupt because the Examiner’s
decision to restrict certain business while allow others to do business as usual.
· Never mind that the Examiner (think WHO, CDC) thinks that COVID is not
airborne, oh, wait a minute, it might be airborne after all, everybody’s got to wear a
mask, which is a notion based on mostly anecdotal evidence or at best,
inconclusive, debatable empirical data.
· Never mind the Examiner thinks a vaccine is the savior and intends to impose it on
everyone…, i.e., the full 450-volt shock!
Are you getting my point? I’m being a bit sarcastic, maybe irreverent, but the Milgram Experiment and the dynamics present in 2020, specifically the handling of the COVID crisis, scream a certain similarity. Our freedoms are being threatened on virtually every front. The Examiner is following the script. Speaking of, what was the script for the Examiner in the Milgram Study? Here you go.
· The first resistance of any kind by the Teacher, the Examiner’s response is…
Please continue, i.e.,…
Examiner: we’re going into lockdown for 3 weeks…
Teacher, 3 weeks later: but its not necessary to stay shutdown another 3 weeks…
Examiner: please continue!”
· The second resistance of any kind by the Teacher and the Examiner responds…
The experiment requires that you continue, i.e.,…
Examiner: social distancing required, only essential businesses can operate, face
masks suggested in public
Teacher: Are liquor stores essential?
Examiner: the experiment requires that you continue!”
· The third resistance by the Teacher and the Examiner’s response is…
It is absolutely essential that you continue
Examiner: facial masks are required
Teacher: but OSHA says for contaminated environments, the medical mask is not
effective and that the N95, while good for you in contaminated environments
doesn’t protect those around you and then there are studies that indicate that
breathing your own carbon dioxide isn’t really good for you, not to mention that
everyone is walking around messing with their masks and then touching our food,
packages, walls, and pretty much everything we touch…isn’t that a risk?
Examiner: the experiment requires that you continue!
· Finally, after the fourth resistance by the Teacher, the Examiner emphatically responds…
You have no other choice, you MUST go on!...
Examiner: vaccines are required!
Teacher: but shouldn’t I have the right to chose what goes in my body, after all, if
the vaccine is effective and you get it, aren’t you protected? Why are you so
worried about what choice I make?
Examiner: you have no other choice, you MUST go on!
Now, I ask you, The American People and for that matter, People of the World, do you see anything here? It seems clear that the Milgram Experiment, even with all its controversy, speaks volumes to us about the world in which we live. We’ve got some decisions to make!
Tomorrow, I will write my final letter regarding the Milgram Experiment to The American People. Talking about the numbers who complied and were willing to go along with authority even at the expense of their fellow man is one thing. We can get all up in a tizzy about how weak and spineless this 65% are, not to mention the 100% who were willing to inflict significant pain and suffering on another, but what do we learn about the one-third that defied the orders to administer the pain? What do we know about them? My next post will focus on the DEFIERS. Those who did not follow the ultimate dictates to administer the highest level of pain no matter what the Examiner demands.
Until then, The American People, think about it…Talk to you soon!
Dr. Russell Thomas